HIPAA Violations and Your Nursing License

November 23, 2022
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Even though nurses deal with HIPAA requirements every day, it’s easy to violate the Act without even realizing it. And while many HIPAA violations can be easily dealt with, serious violations can result in disciplinary action and possibly even the loss of your license. If you are facing disciplinary action as a result of a HIPAA violation, you should contact a nursing license defense attorney as soon as possible. 

Common HIPAA Violations

One of the main purposes of HIPAA is to protect patients’ privacy. For nurses, the most common HIPAA violations involve the inappropriate disclosure of “protected health information” or PHI. 

Disclosing Medical Information to Unauthorized Persons

One of the most common HIPAA violations is when a nurse provides medical information to someone who is not authorized to receive it. This can include comments made to coworkers who are not involved in the patient’s care or sharing information with a friend or family member. 

Failure to Keep Medical Information Secure

An inadvertent HIPAA violation can arise when a nurse leaves patient records unsecured where anyone can see them, such as leaving their files unattended in a public area. Similarly, an inadvertent disclosure can occur when the nurse fails to dispose of records in a secure manner, such as by throwing sensitive documents into an unsecured trash bin. 

Access to Electronic Records by Unauthorized Persons

Electronic medical records have revolutionized the healthcare industry and also offer a way to keep patient information secure. However, sharing login information to gain access means that you could provide someone access to patient information who should not have it. 

Social Media

Social media is another technological development that increases the risk of violating HIPAA restrictions. A common scenario involves taking a “selfie” with a patient who can then be identified when posted on social media. Discussing patient information in Facebook groups or other online forums can also be a HIPAA violation. 

Can You Face Disciplinary Action? 

Nurses who commit unintentional, minor infractions likely do not have much to worry about. That said, what you consider minor and what the nursing board considers minor may be two very different things. Depending on a couple of factors, the board may decide to take action against you which can entail anything from a warning to revocation of your license. If you are worried about your license following a HIPAA violation, the best thing you can do is contact a nursing license defense attorney as soon as possible. 

Was the Violation Intentional? 

One of the factors that will determine whether the board takes action is whether the violation was intentional. Nurses who sell patients’ medical information or leak it to the media or other sources will most certainly face disciplinary action. They may also face criminal charges. 

The violation does not need to be for monetary or other personal gains to result in disciplinary action. For example, posting videos or photos to social media in order to mock or shame patients would certainly carry professional consequences. 

Unintentional violations generally result in less serious consequences. For first-time violations, you may be able to avoid any action by agreeing to undergo additional training. 

Whether your violation was intentional or unintentional, do not assume that your license is not at risk. Contact a nursing license defense attorney to discuss your options. 

The Severity of the Violation

The severity of the violation will also be a factor in determining whether you face disciplinary action. Again, it is important to recognize that ultimately the Board of Nursing will decide whether or not your violation was severe. 

Intentional violations will almost always be considered more serious than inadvertent violations. That said, violations that arise from gross carelessness with regard to patient information could be taken very seriously. Similarly, the board may also aggressively pursue violations where the nurse has a history of HIPAA violations or of being careless with patient information. 

If your employer is referring your HIPAA violation to the Board of Nursing, do not wait for them to decide whether or not it warrants further action. Instead, be proactive and get the help you need by contacting an experienced nursing license defense attorney as soon as possible. 

Call Nursing License Defense Attorney J.W. Stafford Today

You invested a great deal of time and money in getting your license – we can help you protect that investment. Don’t risk your future by facing the Board of Nursing alone. Contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford to schedule an appointment and discuss how we can help you.